Karen gets carried away with a pair of enviable red dancing shoes in Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Red Shoes”.
Red shoes are often equated to sinfulness in European culture, and in Christian mythology, they are often gifts from the devil or have some other fiendish beginnings. Some stories even have shoes made from the Devil’s backside, but all have powers that eventually lead to the damnation of the wearers’ soul.
The longer version of this story includes a redemption arc, but I first read it with the ending featured in today’s story time. This story has a cattier basis than Andersen’s adaptations: he invented it in 1845 and named the protagonist after the half-sister he disliked. The tale was inspired by a pair of beautiful silk shoes his father crafted for a wealthy lady. She told him he had ruined her silk and in anger, he cut them up in front of her instead of giving them to her daughter as he was paid to do.
The Red Shoes has been adapted many times, perhaps most sumptuously in the story-within-a-story stage drama and ballet film The Red Shoes, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948. The film is an early one shot in technicolor. It features a beautiful musical montage and performance piece that delights the senses as much as puts them at ill-ease.